The Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court recently asked the Maharashtra government to be sensitive towards the conditions of observation homes, where children in conflict with law are lodged, as well as of state-run shelter homes for special children.
The court warned officers of the concerned department of strict coercive action in case they fail to collect and provide data, statistics and state of affairs of such institutions across Maharashtra as directed in its September 23 order.
A division bench of Justice Sanjay V Gangapurwala and Justice Rajesh N Laddha was on October 7 hearing a suo motu public interest litigation it had initiated last year, in which amicus curiae Akshay Kulkarni, assisting the court, had informed the HC that those in charge of shelter homes for special children in Jalna were “turning a blind eye” to observations made by the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) in regard to unhygienic conditions in the homes.
The HC had earlier expressed shock after a report of the DLSA chairperson mentioned that fodder of animals, including cows and calves, were kept in a room of such homes, creating unsuitable conditions for children.
On August 20, the HC asked Assistant Government Pleader (AGP) A R Kale to take instructions from concerned law enforcement machinery on whether the Jalna Police has probed financial illegalities and irregularities in such homes.
After the HC warned the Investigating Officer of crime pertaining to irregularities in Jalna shelter homes of issuing a warrant against him, AGP Kale submitted that a chargesheet is filed in the Jalna case on October 6.
The court also noted that while it had not merely sought a number of Shishugruhas and Balgruhas in the state, inspection reports of such institutions are also expected to be placed on record and that information is not being provided diligently.
“The state cannot consider the present matter as an adversarial litigation. The state, its officers are expected to be sensitive to the conditions in which the inmates in the Shishugruhas and Balgruhas are required to reside. The officers concerned are expected to take the matter with all seriousness and place the information on record as sought,” the court said.
It added, “If we find that the officers concerned are avoiding to place on record the information as sought, we would not hesitate to take action against those officers concerned.”
The bench sought details from respondent authorities and said “failing which we will be constrained to take coercive steps against the officers concerned”.
The HC will hear the PIL next on October 27.